My next challenge was to experience a day at the races, in style. There is no better way in the world to experience a day at the races than to head to the world famous Royal Ascot.
There are few sporting venues that can match the rich heritage and history of Ascot Racecourse. For almost 250 years, Royal Ascot has established itself as a national institution and the centrepiece of the British social calendar as well as being the ultimate stage for the best racehorses in the world.
Tradition, pageantry, fashion and style all meet in a glorious setting at one of the most beautiful racecourses in the country. The quality of the horse racing at Royal Ascot is simply outstanding, with nearly £4 million in prize money on offer and a total of eighteen ‘Group’ races over the five days.
So without haste I booked my grandstand tickets and blew the cobwebs off of my suit (hoping that the affects of fast approaching middle-age were not too much that I would be unable to do up my trousers or jacket). I tried on my suit and decided that, as long as I don't have to do anything unnecessary like breathe, speak, walk or sit down, the suit should just about fit.
The day soon arrived and I had my strategy for placing bets on horses worked out perfectly... A true 'horses' expert doesn't usually like revealing their techniques, but in this case I am feeling very generous and will let you know how I usually choose my winning horses. It all starts by opening the racing guide for the day and looking at the horses running in each race. Now read carefully as this is the key element.... look for a name that stands out for you and place your house/life savings/car/children's pocket money on that one. Well that's what I did on the day, and just about broke even my the end of the last race (well okay, maybe I didn't quite put my house or anything on any of the races, just a few pounds).
The day was amazing. As we got off the train, we could already see people dressed up to 'the nines' with their high heels, expensive handbags, colourful dresses and enormous hats with feathers coming out in all directions, and lots of make-up.... ...and that was just the men. On a serious note, this is one occasion where people really do make an effort to dress up very elegantly. As the name of the event says, it is Royal and the Queen & Prince Phillip do attend, so unless you want to take a trip to the guillotine and lose your head, it is really worth making an effort to give your shoes a good polish!
As soon as we made our way into the main area we headed for drinks. Well, it would be so wrong to go to such an event and not join in with the jollity of the occasion. Next was to find somewhere to place some bets. Now it may come as no surprise, but I am not a gambling man. Maybe an occasional flutter on the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, or a £1 on the National Lottery, but nothing of any serious nature. A really nice lady had clearly taken pity on me when she could see that, not only could I not work out how to place a bet, but I didn't even know which way up the betting slip went. Hmmmmm, somehow this was going to be an interesting day. The lady gave me advice on what to do, to which I smiled and nodded understandingly (although to be honest, I still had no idea what she was on about... the odds and permutations were frazzling my usually logical and mathematical mind). In the I told her what horses names I liked, and she filled out the slip for me. Much easier, why didn't we come to that agreement earlier in our conversation. My friend and I did have a bit of a laugh with her as neither of us were any the wiser, but at least we now had something to scream and shout about when the horses were doing their bit.
The next part of the day we spent our time people watching.... TV and music celebrities, fashion icons, chefs, sportsmen and women and lots of genera public, all getting excited and looking at the line up.
We wandered down to the Royal enclosure to watch the Queen and Prince Phillip arrive. And of course she waved at me as she went past. I have heard through the grapevine that she was quite honoured to be there at the same time as me.
There were a number of additional things happening around the grounds earlier throughout the buildup to the racing.... fashion shows and food tasting to name but two, Of course I had to sample all of them. Well, it would have been wrong not to.
The racing eventually started. One thing that I have always wanted to do was to be at a race day, win a race and wave my betting slip in the air shouting "Bravo! Bravo!". Alas, for the two races i ended up quietly taring up my betting slips and swearing under my breathe for betting on complete donkeys. Eventually my luck turned and my winners started coming in. Not quite as many of them as I had hoped, but quite frankly the alcohol had started working its way around my body so the pain of the losses were somewhat muffled.
It was a joyous event. Lots of laughter and cheer, a real carnival atmosphere!
The racing came to an end and we made our way from the main grandstand. This is where another amazing thing happened/ Everybody started congregating around the main standing area and a band started playing. It was like something out of a film, everybody started singing.
A truly magical way to finish of what was a truly wonderful day. Another challenge complete, and another new experience achieved,